Notes on Selected Polish Surnames – 8


To: Piotr Fudalej, [email protected], who wrote:

…I’ve always been thinking about origin of my name and heard many theories concerning where it had come from, but actually never came across any good source of reference. Could you, please, give me more details about my surname or refer me to the source I can find this information?

I can find no Polish root fud-, but in his book Nazwiska Polakow Polish surname expert Prof. Kazimierz Rymut mentions Fudala among several names common in Poland but actually of Rumanian origin — as he puts it, “Nazwiskami genetycznie rumunskich sa np. Bachleda, Bachled, Bizior, Durda, Kudas, Fudala, Hareza.” It seems likely Fudalejderives from that name. Rymut does not mention the meaning of this root in Rumanian, but I notice that there are in Rumanian such words as fudul, which means “proud,”fudulie, “pride, haughtiness,” and a verb fuduli (a se) meaning “to bridle up, strut, flaunt.” I am not positive this root is the source of the surname, but it seems plausible — perhaps used much as Poles use the root of buta (= pycha, “pride”) and bucic~ sie~, (= pysznic~ sie~, “to preen”) in the names Buta, Butkiewicz, etc.

As of 1990 there were 747 Polish citizens named Fudalej, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (30), Katowice (71), Kielce (171), Krakow (157), and Tarnow (83) and smaller numbers (less than 30) in most other provinces. By comparison, there were 1,422 Poles named Fudala, 1,992 named Fudali and 1,668 named Fudal~a. Unfortunately the database from which this information was compiled belongs to the Rzadowe Centrum Informacyjne PESEL, which does not make further data such as first names, addresses, etc. available to researchers, so the above data is all I have access to.

I believe Rumanian fudul is likely to be the source of this name, but if you would like to get the opinion of the best experts in the field, I suggest writing to the Anthroponymic Workshop of the Polish Language Institute. [For more information see my introduction, or click here for the address: Institute address].

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: [email protected], who wrote:

…Limited knowledge of family points to a Count Thomas Podolski from somewhere in Galicia migrating sometime during 1870-1880’s. Moved to Winona , Minnesota & married Mary Wicka. Also interested in origins of Lampa & Setara also migrated to Little Falls, Minnesota before moving on to western North Dakota & easter Montana homesteads. Thanx for any help you can provide at your leisure.

I’m afraid when it comes to Polish nobility I’m badly out of my element — I have very sources on it, and know next to nothing about it. However, there is an organization some have told me they found helpful, the Polish Nobility Association Foundation, Villa Anneslie, 529 Dunkirk Rd., Anneslie, MD 21212-2014. If they can’t help you, I don’t know who can.

Also, have you checked out the Polish Genealogical Society of Minnesota? It seems to me they might be able to assist you. If you’d like to learn more about them, check out their Website:

According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, Lampa most likely comes from the noun lampa, “lamp,” or perhaps in some cases from a nickname for Lambert,a moderately common first name in eastern Europe. As of 1990 there were 697 Polish citizens named Lampa, with the largest numbers by far showing up in the provinces of Czestochowa (309), Katowice (160), and Krakow (69) — all three provinces are in far southcentral Poland.

As for Setara, neither Rymut nor any other of my sources mentions a likely derivation for this name — even the dictionary has no native Polish word beginning with setar- or any likely variant (there is the word seter, but it’s a loan word from English, meaning “setter,” the dog breed). As of 1990 there were 160 Poles with this name, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Jelenia Gora (18), Krakow (13), Rzeszow (27), Slupsk (13), and Tarnow (51), a pattern that suggests the name is most common in far southeastern Poland, near the Ukrainian border. This raises the distinct possibility that the name is not of Polish linguistic origin, but rather Ukrainian or Slovak. If so, perhaps you could find some leads at the website — I think they have some sort of surname board or search facility.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Casimir J. Gacek, [email protected], who wrote:

…Please provide any info on the Gacek surname. I understand that the name means “bat” so will the name be interpreted as a bat keeper? Also, do you have any background on the name Cieslak?

None of my sources state definitively what Gacek comes from, but it seems highly likely to derive from the word gacek, meaning “bat” (the animal). It might have originated as a nickname because someone somehow reminded people of a bat, or lived in an area where there were bats, or, as you say, kept bats; at this point it is difficult to analyze backwards and determine precisely how the name arose, but we can reasonably assume it came from the term for bat, and we can make reasonable assumptions on how the name might have gotten started. It is a very common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 4,749 Polish citizens named Gacek, living all over the country. In fact, I have a letter on my desk right now from a lady in England named Gacek. I’m afraid the name offers no clues that help suggest where a family by that name might have originated.

Cies~lak is one of many names deriving from the term cies~la, “carpenter.” Most likely this originally started as meaning “carpenter’s son.” This is an extremely common name in Polish — as of 1990 there were 26,889 Poles by this name. Since this name could arise anywhere Polish was spoken and carpenters had sons, it is not surprising that the name appears in large numbers all over the country, with no apparent pattern to the distribution.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Sandra Rosequist, [email protected], who wrote:

…I have been searching for quite some time for any reference to my maiden name Bronkala or Brzonkala (both spellings are listed on my Grandfather’s death certificate). I haven’t a clue as to where my ancestors may have come from in Poland. I’m hoping if I understood what the name meant, I would be able to discover their place of origin.

In a case like this the best procedure is to try, if possible, to determine the standard form of the name, as that helps clarify what root it derived from. I have a 10-volume set of books that lists every surname borne by Poles as of 1990 (well, almost every name — the database lacked info on 6% of the population, but 94% is pretty good); it gives the name, the total number of Poles by that name, and a breakdown of where they lived by province. (It gives no further info such as first names, addresses, ages, so unfortunately I can’t help with that). Looking in that directory for the likely forms of this name, here’s what I found:

Bronkala: 10, all in Katowice province

Brzonkala: 0 (which means there was at least one, but the data file was missing info)

Bra~kal~a: 1, living in the province of Nowy Sacz (the a~ refers to the Polish nasal a, written as an a with a tail under it and pronounced like “on”; the l~ refers to the Polish slashed l, which is pronounced much like our w)

Brza~kal~a: 772, living all over Poland, but with the largest numbers (more than 50) in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (54), Kalisz (208), Katowice (58), Opole (52), and Pila (83)

This suggests that Brza~kal~a is the “standard” form of the name — the others are all variants; they are pronounced more or less the same, so that if you take into account regional variations in pronunciation, they all make sense as slightly different forms of the same name. Brza~kal~a is most common in western Poland and especially southwestern Poland (Kalisz, Katowice and Opole provinces); I don’t see any really useful pattern to the distribution, except that Kalisz province has a large enough concentration to deserve particular attention.

Having established that Brza~kal~a is probably the standard form of the name, I looked in Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut’s book Nazwiska Polakow, and found that he does mention this name as having derived from the basic root seen in the words brze~k, “rattle, clang,” and brze~czec~, “to rattle, clang, make a rattling noise” — the e~refers to the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it and pronounced much like “en,” and it’s not uncommon for the two nasal vowels a~ and e~ to change places with each other in names and words.

The suffix -al~a usually means “one who typifies or is always displaying the characteristic denoted by the first part of the word,” so Brza~kal~a would mean “one always rattling, clanging.” A closely related word, brze~kal~ka, is a musical instrument that makes such a sound. So there was something about a clang or rattling sound that people associated with a particular fellow, so that they gave him this nickname and it eventually stuck as a surname. Perhaps he was always making noise, or ringing a bell, something like that; centuries later it’s hard for us to say just exactly how the name arose, but we can be fairly certain it was something along those lines.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: [email protected] (Erie County Legislator Gregory B. Olma), who wrote:

…I finally got my copy of your book on Polish Surnames. I and my family had fun flipping through and finding what silly names our friends have…

From the feedback I get, quite a few folks have fun doing that. Lord knows, there are some bizarre and funny names to be found!

…Anyway I was wondering about the geographic distribution of some ancestral names: Kajdasz … and Strenk …Since both of these names seem to be infrequent, it would probably be helpful to find out if there are any concentrations of these names in particular provinces.

A perfectly logical idea, and sometimes such info does provide a clue.

As of 1990 there were 217 Polish citizens named Kajdasz; the distribution breakdown is short, so I’ll quote the whole thing — remember this is by province, not just in the cities named but in the provinces of which they are the capital: Bydgoszcz (33), Elblag (8), Gorzow (10), Jelenia Gora (1), Kalisz (4), Katowice (51), Poznan (91), Sieradz (3), Szczecin (2), Torun (8), Wroclaw (6). In this case Poznan and Katowice provinces seem to be the focal points — I’m not sure that helps much, but it might be worth knowing. Interestingly, the name Kajdas, without the final z, is more common — as of 1990 there were 624 of them, with more than half in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (234) and Katowice (141), and much smaller numbers in the other provinces.

There were only 68 Poles named Strenk, with the breakdown as follows: Bydgoszcz (19), Gdansk (12), Koszalin (14), Poznan (8), Torun (10), Zielona Gora (5). But due to the nasal en sound, this name could also easily be spelled Stre~k (where e~ is the nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it), and as of 1990 there were 1,212 Poles named Stre~k, living all over the country but with the largest numbers in the provinces of: Bydgoszcz (108), Krakow (246), Poznan (119), Rzeszow (109), and Tarnow (212). Again, I don’t know how much of a pattern there is there, but now that you have the data perhaps you will be able to make some sense of it.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Lucia Wicinski, [email protected], who wrote:

…Would you please tell me about two more Polish surnames? Pretty please?

No need to beg, I enjoy doing this, as long as people are reasonable — I get upset when someone sends me a list of 12 names and expects complete family histories. But a reasonable request like yours, I’m only too happy to do.

…I would like to know about Grucza and Czajka.

Czajka, according to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, comes from the term czaja or czajka, “lapwing” (a bird, sort of like a gull), or from the verb root in czajac~, “to lie in wait for.” I would think Czajkawould usually come from the bird rather than the verb — there are many popular Polish surnames derived from names of birds. It’s tough to say exactly why such a name got started; it was probably a nickname. Perhaps something about a fellow reminded people of a lapwing, or he kept lapwings, or lapwings were common in the area where he lived. This is an extremely common name, as of 1990 there were some 16,245 Czajka’s living in Poland; I see no real pattern to the distribution, the most Czajkas live in the provinces with the largest populations, which suggests it is more or less evenly distributed. There are quite a few other popular names from the same root, especially Czajkowski, which is the Polish way of spelling the name of the popular composer Tchaikovsky (he was Russian, but that spelling is German-influenced, I guess because his name became known to Europeans mainly through German conductors and experts on classical music).

Grucza, according to Rymut, can come from gruca, “oats, groats,” or from grucza, “bump, swelling.” In Polish the c and cz often switch, depending on dialect pronunciations and other factors, so we can’t say for sure the name came from the word for “bump” rather than the word for “oats.” This name is not so common, as of 1990 there were only 198 Poles named Grucza (as opposed to 3,924 named Gruca!). The distribution by province was: Warsaw (8), Elblag (13), Gdansk (124), Katowice (27), Legnica (2), Slupsk (12), Torun (12), so the Gdansk area is the big one for this name.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: James J. Czerniak, Jr., [email protected], who wrote:

…I was just wondering if you have any info on the name Czerniak. From what little bit i could find, it must have originated in the Poznan region of Poland. Also where can i get/order a copy of your book?

The ultimate root of the name Czerniak is czarn-, meaning “dark, black.” Names can derive from a number of different words based on that root, including czarny, “black,”czern’, “blackness, mob,” etc. There are also many, many places with names based on this root, and then surnames can derive from those place names. Unfortunately, with names (like this) that can get started dozens of differente ways, it’s impossible to say just how a particular family ended up with a particular name, unless you’ve done extremely detailed research on that family — and even then you often can’t say, because there just aren’t any surviving records that shed light on the matter. About all we can say for sure is that this is one of many popular names deriving from the root meaning “dark, black.” It might refer to complexion, disposition, place of residence, etc.

As of 1990 there were some 7,269 Poles with this surname, living all over the country. In modern-day Poznan province there were 781, which is the highest number for a single province; some other provinces with lots of Czerniaks are Bydgoszcz (438), Katowice (595), Konin (331), Lublin (682), and Zamosc (335). There doesn’t seem to be any obvious pattern to the distribution, except that the most Czerniaks live in the provinces with the largest populations.

I know this information is awfully general and may not help you a lot, but with many common names that’s about all you can do. I hope this is some help to you, and wish you the best of luck with your research!

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Anne Mejan, [email protected], who wrote:

… Would you know of the Polish name Nienajadlo? I wonder if you have come across it and perhaps would know any brief history of the family name?

I’ve never come across this name before, but it is an interesting one.

Nienajadl~o (the l~ stands for the Polish slashed l, pronounced like our w, so that the name would sound like “nyeh-nah-YAHD-woe”) is not extremely common, but not really rare — as of 1990 there were 278 Polish citizens by this name. They lived in many different provinces, with the larger numbers showing up in the provinces of Legnica (23), Przemysl (42), Rzeszow (39), and Tarnobrzeg (103), which suggests the southeast corner of Poland is where this name originated.

That fits in with the linguistic aspects of the name — Nienajadl~o derives from nie-, “not,” plus najadl~y, a participle of the verb najes~c~, “to eat one’s fill.” SoNienajadl~o would appear to mean “one who didn’t eat too much,” perhaps meant ironically, a kind of nickname for someone who was skin and bones. However, I could also easily imagine this as meaning “one who never can eat his fill,” i. e., someone with a big appetite. Names formed from participles like this generally do show up mostly in southeast Poland, near the Ukrainian border, which is where this name is most common. Also, there were a lot of times historically when famine struck this area, sometimes due to crop failure, sometimes because of war.

So this suggests the family may have tended to be on the thin side — perhaps because they were too poor to eat much — or were famous for their appetites and could never get enough to eat. Those are the two most likely meanings of the name.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: [email protected], who wrote:

…Your new book is very informative and it has helped me very much. My great-grandmother had the maiden name Ramzinski, which is not included in the book. Several Ramzinski families came to the Bexar county, TX area between 1870-1875. They came from Kiszkowo, Gniezno, Poznan. I would appreciate information on the history and origin of the name and how are they distributed now in Poland?

I’m glad to hear my book has helped you!

I’m afraid the Slownik nazwisk shows no entry for Ramzinski, which either means there were none and the name died out in Poland after your ancestors emigrated, or there were only a few in 1990 and they happened to live in those provinces for which the database did not have complete data. I notice there is an entry for Ramz*yn~ski, which would be pronounced almost exactly the same (the zh sound would be a bit stronger, and the Polish y is like the “i” in “sit” rather than the “ee” sound of Polish i; the n~ stands for the n with an accent over it, the z* stands for the z with a dot over it). The Ramz*yn~skis lived in the provinces of Krosno (4), Wroclaw (1), and Zielona Gora (4). Although the two names sound very similar and might just be variants of each other, I’m reluctant to conclude there is a connection between these two surnames, because there’s reason to believe they come from two different place names, as I’m about to explain.

The form Ramzin~ski would most likely mean “one who comes from a place called Ramza, Ramzia, Ramzy,” something like that. I can find only one area that seems to fit. There was a locality Ramzy composed of two parts, Mal~e Ramzy (“Little Ramzy, German name “Klein Ramsen”), a manorial grange, and an estate Wielkie Ramzy (“Big Ramzy,” German “Gross Ramsen”), both in Sztum county (now in Elbla~g province), 5 km. southeast of Sztum, which is where the Lutheran parish church was located, whereas Catholics went to the parish church in Postolin. I can find Postolin and Sztum on my maps, but can’t find either Ramzy — perhaps they’re too small to show up on the map, perhaps the name has been changed, or perhaps they’ve been incorporated into some other place.

There was also a tiny village Ramz*yno in Dzisna county, which would put it in what is now Belarus. The name Ramz*yn~ski is a better fit, linguistically, with this name, and that’s why I’m hesitant to identify the two surnames as just variants of each other. One may have originated in Belarus, the other in East Prussia — a considerable distance apart.

Without much more detailed info on your family, I cannot say for sure your Ramzin~skis are connected to the places named Ramzy in Elbla~g province. They could well be, people did sometimes move around in Poland (though not to the extent modern Americans do, for instance); but your Ramzin~skis might have taken their name from another place too small to show up in the gazetteers and on maps. Still, just from a linguistic point of view, the Ramzy – Ramzin~ski connection is quite credible.

Sorry I couldn’t give you a more definite answer, but I hope this info is some help to you, and I wish you the best of luck with your research!

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Jon W. Ross, [email protected], who wrote:

…I am a second generation American. My grandparents came from Warsaw. Their last name is Bycofski. They took up the surname Cuba. They settled in Athens, Ohio. My grandfather died in the worst mine disaster in the history of Ohio ? the Pittsfield mine explosion. I’m trying to piece my lineage together. Can you shed any light on the name Bycofski?

The first problem here is to get the original Polish form of the night — Bycofski has clearly been anglicized. The w in the ending -owski is pronounced like an f, so Bycowski is a plausible spelling. Unfortunately, there was no one in Poland with this name as of 1990, which suggests — although it doesn’t prove for sure — that that form is not likely to be right. The c is the next problem. If it is pronounced like a k, the Polish spelling was probably Bykowski; but sometimes c and cz alternate in names, so Byczowski is also possible. But that name doesn’t show up in Poland either. There is Byczewski, a name borne by 59 Poles. Bykowski, however, was the name of 2,778 Poles as of 1990. Without more info to go on, I’m inclined to think Bykowski was the original Polish spelling. As I said, there were 2,778 Poles by that name, living all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of: Warsaw (166), Bialystok (163), Lodz (181), Piotrkow (153), and Wloclawek (197). I can’t see any real pattern to the distribution, the name appears to be spread all over the country.

Whether byc- or byk- was the original beginning of the name, it probably derives from the term byk, meaning “bull,” diminutive byczek, “bullock.” The -owski ending usually means the name was formed from the name of a village or town ending in -ow, -owo, -owa, or something similar. There are quite a few places named Bykow, Bykowo, Bycz, Byczow, and so on, and the surnames Bykowski or Byczkowski could theoretically come from any of them. Those places got their names from a connection with a fellow with the nickname Byk (“Bull”) or with bulls — probably cattle were raised there. So your surname probably started out meaning “person from the place of the bulls or Bull’s place.” But since there are so many places that might be the source of this name, there’s no way to guess which particular one the name started in. It could have started in any of them, and probably did arise independently in a number of places. That explains why Bykowskis now live all over the country.

I know I haven’t answered all your questions, but without lots of detailed info on your particular family, there just isn’t enough data to draw any specific conclusions. Still, I hope this info is some help to you, and I wish you the best of luck with your research!

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Judith Manley, [email protected], who wrote:

…The Brataniec name that you could not find, per say, as a Polish name, I found in Monovia on the Polish border in a town called Mahrisch-Ostrau. I cannot say for sure that that is where he originally came from (born in 1874) as I lack the records.

I can’t remember what I wrote about Brataniec, but it clearly comes from the term brataniec, literally “brother’s son,” i. e., “nephew.” As of 1990 there were 60 Poles with this name, living in the provinces of Katowice (4), Krakow (13), Krosno (4), Nowy Sacz (11), and Tarnow (28). This strongly suggests the name comes from southcentral and southeastern Poland, in the area that was formerly ruled by Austria and named “Galicia.”

…Interesting though may be his mother’s maiden name, which is Niedzwiecka. I am not sure that this is a Polish name either, especially from looking in your book… So my question is, do you have any insight to the name Niedzwiecka? If I can find out a location, I may have a chance of finding my family!

Niedzwiecka is simply the feminine form of Niedzwiecki — the wife or daughter of a man named Niedzwiecki would be called Niedzwiecka. As it says on p. 216 of the first edition of my book, and p. 358 of the second edition, Niedzwiecki comes from a Polish word niedz~wiedz~ meaning “bear.” It might have started as a nickname for a bear-like fellow or a guy who was good at hunting bears. But in many, many cases it would have meant “fellow who owned, came from, or often traveled to __” where the blank is filled in with any of several dozen villages with names from that root meaning “bear,” for instance, Niedzwiedz (at least 11), Niedzwiada (at least 4), etc.

As of 1990 there were 1,866 Poles named Niedzwiecki, 6,432 named Niedz~wiecki (with an accent over the z), 1,068 named Niedzwiedzki (which is pronounced exactly the same, so the names are easily confused), and 2,382 named Niedz~wiedzki. So that’s almost 12,000 Poles who have what is, for all intents and purposes, the same surname. Clearly the name originated in many different places at many different times, so there are numerous separate families with the name.

This is one thing I kind of hate about answering questions on Polish surnames: people hope the name will give them a clue where in Poland their families came from. It does work that way, sometimes, and when it does both the questioner and I end up feeling quite good about it! But the majority of times there just isn’t info in the name to help. There were lots of places in Poland where bears were common at one time, so places where they fed or lived often got a name like Niedzwiedz, and then people coming from those place ended up with names like Niedzwiedzki or Niedzwiecki (which are pronounced the same).

So, this info may not be much help to you. For what it’s worth, if you can find a place named Niedzwiada or Niedzwiedz (from which the name Niedzwiecki can come) near Mahrisch-Ostrau (Ostrawa Morawska, which according to my sources is in the Czech Republic, very near the border), that might be the right one.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


I live in Melbourne Australia. My parents were Lithuanian. I have a suspicion that our surname is derived from Polish and may have originally been Lewicki or similar. Many years ago I was sent a coat of arms reproduction via Poland with that name. I wonder if you could assist me in any way what so ever, I would be very grateful.

Chances are very good the name was Lewicki at one point — Lithuanian names ending in -auskas usually correspond to Polish -owski, -inskas corresponds to -inski, and -ckiscorresponds to -icki. Sometimes Lithuanians dropped their original names (if they had one, at that point in time many Euopeans did not) and adopted Polish names that they liked or that seemed somehow appropriate. Also, numerous ethnic Poles lived and still live in Lithuania, and as time went on their Polish names were changed slightly to fit Lithuanian linguistic patterns. So there are several ways the names Levickis and Lewicki can be connected.

The problem is, Lewicki is such a common name — as of 1990 there were 13,441 Poles by that name. The ultimate origin, in most cases, is the term lew, “lion,” also much used as a first name Lew (= “Leo” or “Leon”). A place belonging to the kin of a prominent man named Lew might be called Lewice, for instance, and then people coming from that place would be called Lewicki (“one from Lewice”). In some cases, it can also be a Jewish name, connected to the Levites. So it’s tough to draw any conclusions regarding the name without detailed info on the particular Lewicki or Levickis family in question.

If you haven’t already, it might be worthwhile contacting Dave Zincavage [email protected], he has more sources on Lithuanian names than I have. He might be able to tell you more on the derivation of Levickis, and perhaps some data on where people by that name now live Lithuania.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Jennifer Snyder, [email protected], who wrote:

…I would sincerely appreciate any information you could provide to me in regards to the surname Szala.

Unfortunately, this is one of those names that could have come (and probably did) from several different roots. Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut lists it under the entrySzal- and says such names can derive from the word szala, “scale” (as in a scale to weigh something), or from szal, “shawl,” or from szalec~, a verb meaning “to rage.” We also can’t rule out the possibility it derived from a short form or nickname of Salomon (Solomon) — due to dialect pronunciation peculiarities, s and sz often switch.

As of 1990 there were 2,124 Poles named Szala, and 330 named Szal~a (using l~ to stand for the Polish slashed l, which sounds like our w). The Szala’s lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (127), Kalisz (101), Katowice (418), Rzeszow (110), and Zamosc (176). If there’s a pattern there, I’m afraid I can’t see it. The Szal~a’s were by far most common in the province of Poznan (236).

No matter how you add it up, I’m afraid there just isn’t a clear picture. The name could have come from several different roots, and there’s no pattern to its distribution that tells us anything useful.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Mark Kulis, [email protected], who wrote:

…I am doing research on two branches of my family, with a current goal of determining, hopefully, where each originated from in Poland. I have visited your web page, and would like to ask if you might have encountered either the surname Kulis or Purzycki.

Kulis can come from several different roots: Polish name expert Kazimierz Rymut mentions it in his book on Polish surnames under kul-, explaining that such names can come from the word kula, “sphere, bullet, crutch,” or the verb kulic~ sie~, to crouch. I have also noted that in a few cases it can come from a nickname for Mikolaj, “Nicholas.” In practice most names from kul- mean basically “cripple” (related to that meaning of “crutch” for kula), and that seems the most likely answer here, that an ancestor namedKulis had a deformity that made him lame or forced him to use a crutch.

Names from kul- are very common, and Kulis was the name of 810 Poles as of 1990, with another 1,727 named Kulis~ (that s~ stands for the s with an accent, pronounced like a soft, hissing “sh”) — either of those could be the Polish form of this surname, and they both would mean about the same thing. The largest numbers of Poles namedKulis lived in the provinces of Warsaw (81), Katowice (79), Krakow (64), Olstzyn (51), Ostroleka (57), Skierniewice (85), and Szczecin (52) — there doesn’t appear to be any particular pattern to the distribution. For Kulis~, the largest numbers were in the provinces of Warsaw (95), Czestochowa (104), Katowice (146), Kielce (200), Lomza (119), Ostroleka (102), Piotrkow (108), Suwalki (202), and Tarnow (95) — again, spread fairly evenly all over the country. (By the way, I’m afraid I don’t have access to any more detailed info, such as first names and addresses, what I show here is about all I have).

Purzycki might come ultimately from a term purzyca, “thigh,” but the immediate source would be a place name Purzyce or something like it. There is, for instance, a Purzyce-Trojany in Ciechanow province, and the surname probably referred to a family’s coming from that or some other village with a similar name (there are probably others, too small to show up on my maps). As of 1990 there were 1,243 Poles named Purzycki, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (227), Ciechanow (247), and Olsztyn (136). Probably quite a few of those took their name from that village I mentioned, but there are enough people by this name, in enough different parts of the country, to suggest more than one place gave rise to this surname. So the name means basically “person or family associated with, coming from, working at Purzyca or Purzyce.”

This info may not be a lot of help pinpointing a particular area your ancestors came from, but that’s generally true of most names. There are just too many different words, and places with similar names, to point unambiguously at a place of origin or clear-cut meaning. The origin of a place-derived surname usually is the most help if your research has established an area your ancestors came from, and if you find a village nearby with the right name. So if you learn where the Purzycki’s lived in Poland before coming over, and you find a Purzyce or Purzyca nearby, that’s probably the right place! As for Kulis, it could and did originate in many different parts of Poland, there just isn’t any clue as to which particular place your Kulis’s came from.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Gunter Koerner, [email protected], who wrote:

…I recently read that Cygan is Polish for “Gypsy.” I have an ancestor named Scigan. Are these last names related?

It is true that Cygan is Polish for “Gypsy,” and it is perfectly reasonable to ask if Scigan is related to that root. It’s dangerous to be dogmatic about surnames, especially as regards spellings — it’s not completely out of the question that Scigan might be a mangled version of Cygan. But there is a root that matches the name much more closely, and is probably the right derivation in this case: S~cigany.

S~cigany (the s~ stands for an accent over the s, making it sound like a soft, hissing “sh,” as opposed to the chunkier sh-sound of Polish sz, so that this name would be pronounced roughly “schee-GONE-ee”) looks like a passive participle from the verb s~cigac~, “to pursue, hunt, chase.” So s~cigany would mean “hunted, pursued,” and it would not be at all odd to see that -y drop off to leave S~cigan. Exactly who was hunting your ancestor I have no way of knowing, but apparently he was being chased or pursued… It’s also worth mentioning that s~ciganka shows up in the dictionary as a term for chasing your opponents in a game to hit one of them with a ball, so it’s possible the name refers to someone who was always “it” in playing a game. Also, there is a dialect term s~cigany which is the name of a dance. So your ancestor’s lot may not have been so terribly grim after all — perhaps, instead of being a hunted criminal, he got this name because of playing a game or dancing! No point assuming the worst, eh?

There’s one other interesting bit of info about this name: as of 1990 there were 62 Polish citizens named S~cigan, and 61 of them lived in the province of Jelenia Gora! That’s in the far southwestern tip of Poland. I seldom run across a distribution pattern that’s quite that clear. But if the form of the name as you have it is correct, it strongly suggests Jelenia Gora province is where you should be looking, and all the folks with that name just might be related!

Unfortunately I have no further info to help you with — the source of my data does not give first names, addresses, ages, or anything else, just how many Poles had a particular name and what province they lived in. Perhaps you could arrange to have someone look in a phone directory for Jelenia Gora province — surely one or two of those S~cigan’s has a phone. That would provide you with the address of someone who may well be a relative. There are no sure things in genealogical research, but I like the odds.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Roy Rakiewicz, [email protected], who wrote:

…Any information on my surname would be greatly appreciated. All I know of my ancestry is that my grandfather emigrated to the US from Krakow early this century…

The suffix -iewicz means “son of,” and the term rak means “crab,” so the literal meaning of this name is “son of the crab.” It might refer to the son of a fellow who made crab-like movements, or who caught or sold crabs, or ate them a lot; I’m not sure if “crab” has the same connotation in Polish of “sour, mean-tempered person,” so we don’t have to assume your ancestor was a crab in that way.

I am assuming the spelling here is correct. For instance, if the a is the nasal vowel written with a tail under the a and pronounced like “on,” that would change the root meaning to “hand.” But if this info is right, “son of the crab” is the likely meaning, and that is quite plausible — there are a lot of Polish surnames that come from the names of animals, seafood, etc.

As of 1990 there were 63 Poles named Rakiewicz, living in the following provinces: Bydgoszcz (2), Gdansk (4), Konin (32), Koszalin (1), Olsztyn (5), Poznan (15), Slupsk (1), Walbrzych (3). The only real pattern I see is that they tend to live in areas once ruled by the Germans — and it is interesting that in German a similar surname, Krebs (from the word for “crab”), is fairly common. I’m afraid I have no further info, such as first names, addresses, etc. for those people, the source I’m using gives only names, the number of Poles with each name, and a breakdown by province of where they live.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Stan Piekielny, [email protected], who wrote:

…Fred, I read your book with great interest. I thought it was both informative and entertaining as well.

I’m very glad to hear it! As you can imagine, I put a lot of time and effort into it, and it’s a great pleasure to hear from folks that my efforts weren’t wasted and the book helped them. I particularly love it when folks say, in surprise, “Hey, this is actually funny!” I had to wade through a lot of really DRY stuff when I wrote it, and I just had to throw a little humor in there or I’d have gone nuts.

…I’m interested in knowing more about the name Jajesniak. The family originates from an area located between Kielce and Krakow. In researching the Parish Records for the town, I noticed that many common names began with a J – such as Jadamczyk. I’m wondering if this is a peculiarity to this region of Poland…

The root in this case is almost certainly jaje, “egg.” My 8-volume Polish-English dictionary mentions the term jajes~nica, saying it’s a dialect form of jajecznica, a food made by spreading beaten eggs on butter or bacon (sounds like a dish my daughter would like!). This shows that the -es~niak ending does not affect the root, to where we have to go searching for some other origin — the name derives from “egg.” It might have been applied originally to a person who was particularly good at fixing this dish, or loved to eat it, or from some other association not so clear. But it was surely a nickname or descriptive name — and fortunately not nearly as embarrassing as many Polish names!

As of 1990 there were 170 Poles named Jajes~niak, living in the following provinces: Warsaw (2), Biala Podlaska (6), Czestochowa (1), Gdansk (17), Katowice (44), Kielce (51), Krakow (24), Krosno (5), Lodz (2), Olsztyn (1), Opole (3), Poznan (6), Radom (3), Slupsk (3), Szczecin (2). The numbers for Katowice, Kielce, and Krakow provinces tend to go along well with the info you provided on origins.

There definitely are certain regions in Poland where there’s a distinct tendency to take an initial A- and put a J- in front of it, as you mentioned with Jadamczyk — other examples are Jagata from Agata, Jagnieszka/Jachna from Agnieszka, Jalbert from Albert, and so on. But in this particular case that doesn’t seem to be a factor. The Ja- is an integral part of the root jaje, “egg,” rather than a dialect form. So what you say is right, but is not a factor with this particular name.

… PS – I’ve always gotten a lot of comments about my family name. From your book, I’ve been able to determine that it’s not too common. We’ve always figured that the first Piekielny must have been a “hell” of a guy…

Hey, that works for me! And Piekielny is still a long way from being one of the worse names a Pole could get stuck with!

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: [email protected] (Gloria Fasholz), who wrote:

…As time permits, can you please furnish whatever information you have on these family names: Piszczek, Sniegowski, Buczak.

As of 1990 there were 2,597 Poles named Buczak, spread all over the country but with the largest numbers (over 100) in the provinces of Warsaw (145), Katowice (220), Kielce (228), Krakow (214), Tarnow (122), Wroclaw (247), and Zamosc (428). The main concentration appears to be in the southern part of Poland, but beyond that I see no really useful pattern to the distribution. This name, according to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, derives either from the verb buczec~, “to hum, drone, buzz” (perhaps as a nickname from someone who hummed or droned on a lot) or from buk, “beech tree.”

As of 1990 there were 4,657 Poles named Piszczek, again living all over the country and with the largest numbers (over 200) in the provinces of Katowice (948), Krakow (953), Nowy Sacz (248), Pila (313), Radom (203), and Tarnow (244). Rymut notes this name appears in documents as early as 1390, and usually comes from the termpiszczek, “one who plays pipes or fife.”

There were 808 Poles named S~niegowski, with the largest numbers (over 50) in the provinces of Bydgoszcz (56), Konin (122), Poznan (190), and Szczecin (65). The ultimate root of this name is clearly s~nieg, “snow,” but names ending in -owski usually come from a place name, so in this case we’d expect the name means “person from S~niegi, S~niegow, S~niegowo,” something like that. I can’t find any places with likely names in my atlas, but that probably suggests the places involved were too small to show up on maps, or have since changed their names — not at all uncommon. If your research leads you to a specific area of Poland and you find mention of a place named S~niegi or S~niegowo nearby, chances are good that’s the place this family got its name from.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: [email protected], who wrote:

…I’m interested in the name Ciula. I’ve also seen it written as Chulonga. This name is of a family from Slupiec… Also, the name Bury appears as a maiden name on records I have. Is this a Polish surname?

Bury can be a Polish surname, although of course Polish isn’t the only language in which such a name can arise. But as of 1990 there were 5,825 Polish citizens named Bury, so it is a fairly common name in Poland. Those Poles named Bury lived all over the country, with particularly large numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (1,215), Katowice (622), Przemysl (368), Rzeszow (253), Wroclaw (233), and Warsaw (232). (This is all the data I have, I’m afraid I don’t have access to first names, addresses, etc.) The only pattern I see is that the most Bury’s live in the southern part of Poland. The name probably derives from the adjective bury, “dark grey,” or perhaps in some cases from bura,“brawl, disturbance.”

As of 1990 there were 947 Poles named Ciul~a (I’m using l~ to stand for the Polish l with a slash through it, which sounds like our w; the name would be propounced something like CHEW-wah). The largest numbers of Ciul~a’s lived in the provinces of Katowice (202), Krosno (88), Nowy Sacz (243) — again, in southern Poland. I can’t correlate the numbers with Slupiec, because I don’t know which of at least 3 places named Slupiec you’re referring to. I haven’t seen any expert discuss the origin of this name, but it seems a decent guess it might derive from the verb ciul~ac~, “to gather or accumulate slowly and with difficulty.”

The spelling Chulonga is puzzling — I could easily see the name spelled as Chula or Chulo in English, but that -onga is disturbing. Pronouncing that out loud, it sounds as if it might have been Ciul~a~ga in Polish (a~ = the Polish nasal vowel written as an a with a tail under it, pronounced roughly like on). However, I can find no record of such a name in Poland, and apparently you usually see it as Ciul~a, so I’m not sure how to account for that.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: [email protected], who wrote:

…I saw your name under the genealogy forum…We are having trouble finding out about my husband’s grandfather…His name was Jan Giejda… he came over from Poland in the late 1800’s…As far as we know he came alone..and know nothing about the name or if he has family there…We have come to a dead end with this surname…any help would be appreciated.

Giejda is a pretty rare name in Poland — as of 1990 there were only 31 Polish citizens with this name, living in the provinces of Warsaw (2), Ciechanow (5), Elblag (10), Lublin (14). (Unfortunately I have no access to further data such as names, addresses, etc.). The only root I can find that this name might have derived from is a dialect term giejda,meaning “mute, deaf and dumb.” Of course I don’t have enough data to say this is definitely where the name came from, but this seems a perfectly plausible origin for the name.

I realize this isn’t a lot of help in finding Jan Giejda’s relatives, but every little bit helps — maybe this will do you some good. I hope so, and I wish you the best of luck with your research.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


…I was wondering if you had any information on the Polish surname Krafczyk. I believe the original spelling is Krawczyk. I have a birth certificate on my grandfather and the location listed is Ottynia. Any information would be helpful.

Unfortunately, the problem here is that the name’s too common; there’s little to learn that’s helpful. The proper form of the name is Krawczyk, but that spelling Krafczyk is perfectly understandable, because in Polish pronunciation that w devoices to the sound of an f — so it sounds like Krafczyk, and thus it’s reasonable to spell it that way. As of 1990 there were 365 Polish citizens who spelled the name Krafczyk — in the provinces of Czestochowa (70), Jelenia Gora (1), Katowice (247), Nowy Sacz (1), and Opole (46) — as opposed to 58,246 who spelled it Krawczyk. (I’m afraid I have no further data on the 365 named Krafczyk, my source doesn’t give any further details such as names, addresses, etc.; and I know of no way to get them, short of having someone search through the Polish telephone directory for the province in question, which is no sure thing).

The name comes from the root krawiec, “tailor,” and the suffix -czyk means “son of,” so the name means “tailor’s son.” That’s why it’s so common, it could start anywhere they spoke Polish and had tailors, i.e., all over the country.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: [email protected] (joseph hludzenski), who wrote:

…I have been trying to find the origins of my grandparents names. They are Karwowski and Chludzinski, both came from the area around Lomza in what was Russian-ruled Poland. They came to this country prior to World War One. I have very few relatives in this country and when I visited Poland I found few ther with the surname Chludzinski. At some point in this country our names spelling changed to Hludzenski.

As of 1990 there were 1,541 Polish citizens with the name Chludzin~ski. They were scattered all over the country, with the largest numbers living in the provinces of Warsaw (188) and especially Lomza (649). This name most likely derived from a place name beginning with Chlud-, and the only place I find on the map that seems to qualify is a village called Chludnie, some 10 -15 km. northwest of Lomza. It seems plausible, even likely, that this surname started out, therefore, meaning “person from Chludnie,” and could have referred to a family that owned the estate there (if they were noble) and families that worked the land there (if they were peasants). The ultimate root of the place name might be the verb chludzic~, “to put in order.” The spelling change of Chludzin~ski to Hludzen~ski is not particularly odd or unusual — in Polish h and ch are pronounced the same, so we often see names spelled either way, and the change of the vowel i to e is not unusual, often caused by nothing more than a dialect tendency to change the sound slightly.

The name Karwowski is pretty common, as of 1990 there were 9,003 Polish citizens by this name. They were scattered all over the country, but the largest numbers (more than 500) lived in the provinces of Warsaw (1063), Lomza (1832), Sieradz (662), and Suwalki (856). Generally one would expect the name Karwowski to have originated as a way to refer to people who came from places called Karwow or Karwowo. On the map I see two places called Karwow, and 6 called Karwowo, including 3 in Lomza province. Since your family came from the Lomza area, their surname probably referred to origin in one of those 3 villages named Karwowo in Lomza province, but only detailed research could establish which of the three. The ultimate root of the place name is the term karw, “ox, especially an old, lazy one,” or in older Polish karwa, “cow” — most likely these villages called Karwow and Karwowo were places known for the raising or sale of oxen or cattle.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Leon Kuznik, [email protected], who wrote:

…I would greatly appreciate any information on my last name, Kuznik. I also have some knowledge that some relatives spell it Kuzniki. I would also be interested on the meaning of Kuz and Nik.

In this case you can’t break it down to Kuz- and -nik, the -n- is part of the root word and the -ik is the suffix. The root word is kuz~nia, “smithy, forge,” and a kuz~nik was “one who worked at a smithy or forge, i. e., a blacksmith. This is a moderately common surname in Poland, as of 1990 there were 2,687 Polish citizens by this name. They lived all over the country — not surprising, the name could get started anywhere they spoke Polis and had blacksmiths, namely, everywhere! The largest numbers lived in the provinces of Czestochowa (128), Kalisz (145), Katowice (894), Konin (101), Opole (162), Sieradz (426), and Wroclaw (130). Most of those provinces are in southcentral and southwestern Poland, but beyond that I don’t see any really significant pattern to the distribution.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Anna-Catherine Sendgikoski, [email protected], who wrote:

…I saw your webpage on the PGSA website. I have a request and you may post it as you wish. My interest is in the meaning of the name Sendgikoski. That is my family name. We haven’t much of a clue about the name at all. We think it was butchered at Ellis Island. (Of course!!) But if you could help us in finding out what it means I would be ennternally grateful!!

It’s tricky trying to de-mangle Polish names, but when I tried to say it out loud I suspected that Sendgikowski is pronounced roughly “sen-jee-KOS-kee.” If so, it is probably an anglicized version of the Polish name Se~dzikowski (the e~ stands for the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under, pronounced in most cases somewhat likeen). The ultimate root of this name would be the Polish words sa~d, “court of law,” and se~dzia, “judge.” (Of course, if I’m wrong about Sendjikoski = Se~dzikowski, then the rest of this is no use; but I suspect I am on the right track here.)

Breaking the name up into its components, it appears to come from Se~dzik (“little judge, judge’s son”) + -ow- (of, pertaining to) + -ski (adjectival ending) = “person from the place owned by the judge’s son.” In practice surnames ending in -owski usually started as referring to a family’s origin in a place ending with -ow or -owo or -owa. On my maps I can’t find any place with an appropriate name, but a Polish gazetteer lists a place Se~dzikowszczyzna (that -szczyzna suffix usually indicates a place name formed from the same name with -ski), a private manorial farmstead on the Radunka river about 40 km. from Lida — this is probably now either in Lithuania or Belarus. That doesn’t necessarily mean your ancestors came from that particular place — there could well be little villages or manors in Poland with appropriate names that were too small to show up on maps or in gazetteers, yet we know such names gave rise to surnames. Unfortunately, however, if I can’t find such a place on the maps I can’t suggest where the family came from. But it does seem likely at some point this family either owned (if they were noble), or worked on (if they were peasants), an estate or village named Se~dzikow or Se~dzikowo, which in turn probably got its name from having once been owned by a judge’s son.

The name Se~dzikowski is not exactly rare, but not extremely common either — as of 1990 there were 399 Poles by this name. The 10-volume Directory of Polish Surnames in Current Use does not give addresses or any other info except how many Poles bore a particular name and how many lived in each province. From this I can see that the largest numbers of Se~dzikowski’s lived in the provinces of Warsaw (96), Elblag (30), Lodz (52), and Torun (54); smaller numbers (less than 30) lived in several other provinces.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Bartocha who wrote:

…Since many years I research the base of my name: Bartocha. I found some persons in Polland, but in my opinion Bartocha is not a real Polish name. The fact is, that in Spain a lot of families called Bartoscha and Patoja. The pronunciation seems like Bartocha…, isn’t it…

[Note: since Bartocha’s first language is German, and I needed some practice in German, I answered the note in that language — but an English-language version follows].

Vermutlich sprechen Sie Deutsch, wenn ich mich nicht irre — vielleicht ist es Ihnen leichter, wenn ich auf Deutsch schreibe? Mein Deutsch ist nicht fehlerlos — vor 15 Jahren sprach ich Deutsch viel besser. Es ist aber mir angenehm, zuweilen auf Deutsch zu schreiben, und hoffentlich koennen Sie mich verstehen. Falls Sie lieber meine Bemerkungen auf Englisch laesen, so folgt eine englische Uebersetzung.

Wenn man Namen studiert, so findet man, dass Namen oft auftauchen, die aehnlich klingen, aber aus ganz verschiedenen Wurzeln stammen. Zum Beispiel, der FamiliennameRuck kann offenbar deutsch sein, aber er kann auch eine deutsche phonetische Schreibung des polnischen Namens Ro~g sein — man spricht beide Namen identisch aus, ist es also oft schwer, den richtigen Ursprung des Namens festzustellen. Es gibt viele anderen Beispiele: Rolle und Rola, Bock und Bok, usw. Man braucht nur an den Namen des ungarischen Komponisten Bela Bartok denken, um zu sehen, dass Ihr Name nicht unbedingt polnischer Herkunft sein muss.

Aber die Endung -ocha macht mich im voraus geneigt, zu glauben, dass der Name Bartocha polnisch ist. Man sieht selten (oder nie?) deutschen Namen mit dieser Endung. Namen mit Bart- koennen offenbar vom deutschen Wort Bart kommen, auch von einem Spitznamen fuer Bartholomaeus; in seinem Deutschen Namenlexikon bespricht Hans Bahlow einige deutschen Namen mit Bart-. Aber Bartocha erwaehnt er nicht. Im Jahre 1990 gab es 1,055 Polen mit dem Familiennamen Bartocha — leider habe ich keine statistischen Angaben fuer Deutschland. Ich finde es unwahrscheinlich, dass ein Name deutscher Herkunft diese Endung -ocha haben wuerde. Bei Polen ist der Name andrerseits ziemlich gewoehnlich (zwar nur als Familienname — im Jahre 1994 gab es keine Polen mit dem Vornamen Bartocha, und nur eine Polin mit dem aehnlichen Vornamen Bartosza).

Es ist interessant, dass es spanischen Familiennamen wie Patoja und Bartoscha gibt. Aber die Deutschen und die Polen haben so lange in unmittelbarer Naehe gewohnt, und haben sich so gemischt, dass ich eine deutsch-polnische Verbindung fuer wahrscheinlicher halten muss, als eine spanisch-deutsche. Natuerlich kann man selten ganz sicher sein, wenn es Namen angeht — es speilen so viele Moeglichkeiten und Einzelheiten in der Namengebung eine Rolle. Aber meiner Meinung nach ist Bartocha in einer polnischen sprachlichen Umgebung entstehen — vielleicht als Kurzform fuer Bartholomaeus, vielliecht in Verbindung mit dem Ausdruck barta, Beil.

Uebrigens, wenn Sie nichts dagegen haben, so schlage ich vor, dass diese Bemerkungen auf dem offentlichen “listserv” GENPOL erscheinen. Wir haben nur selten Notizen auf deutsch, und ich moechte zeigen, dass auch Deutsche, nicht nur Polen und Amerikaner, willkommen sind!

Ich hoffe, dass meine Bemerkungen Ihnen helfen, und ich wuensche Ihnen Erfolg in Ihren Forschungen!


English version:

I am assuming you speak German, if I’m not mistaken, and perhaps it would be easier for you if I wrote in German? My German is not perfect — 15 years ago I spoke it far better. But I enjoy writing in German from time to time, and I hope you can understand me. If you would rather read my comments in English, a translation follows.

When one studies names, one often finds names that sound similar but come from completely different roots. For instance, the surname Ruck can obviously be German, but it can also be a German phonetic spelling of the Polish name Ro~g — both names are pronounced the same, so it is often hard to establish the correct origin. There are many other examples, Rolle vs. Rola, Bock vs. Bok, etc. One need only think of the name of the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok to see that your name does not absolutely have to be of Polish origin.

But the ending -ocha makes me inclined to believe the name Bartocha is Polish. One seldom (even never?) sees German names with this ending. Names with Bart- can obviously come from the German word Bart, “beard,” also from a nickname for “Bartholomew”; in his Dictionary of German Names Hans Bahlow discusses several German names beginning with Bart-. But he does not mention Bartocha. In 1990 there were 1,055 Poles with the surname Bartocha; unfortunately I have no statistics for Germany. I find it unlikely that a name of German origin would have this ending -ocha. Among Poles, on the other hand, it is fairly common (although only as a surname — in 1994 there were no Poles with the first name Bartocha, and only one female Pole with the similar name Bartosza).

It is interesting that there are Spanish surnames such as Patoja and Bartoscha. But the Germans and Poles have lived so long in close proximity, and have mixed so much, that I must consider a German-Polish connection more probable than a German-Spanish one. Naturally one can seldom be absolutely sure when it comes to names, there are so many possibilities and circumstances that can play a role in naming. But in my opinion Bartocha arose in a Polish linguistic environment — perhaps as a short form forBartholomew, perhaps in connection with the term barta, “battle-axe.”

By the way, if you have no objections, I propose posting these comments to the public listserv GENPOL. We seldom have notes in German, and I would like to show that Germans are welcome there, too, not just Poles and Americans!

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Casimir J. Gacek, [email protected], who wrote:

…This name is a duzzy!!! It is my cousin’s name and everyone, even Polish people, had a difficult time spelling it correctly. So all the children legally changed their name to “Jeff” which is the pronunciation of the first part of Dziechciowski. I doubt if you can come up with anything on this name–it is very rare!

As of 1990 there were 217 Polish citizens named Dziechciowski; here is the breakdown of where they lived by province:

DZIECHCIOWSKI: 217; Bielsko-Biala 10, Bydgoszcz 2, Gdansk 1, Katowice 2, Koszalin 4, Krakow 3, Nowy Sacz 105, Poznan 21, Rzeszow 1, Szczecin 14, Walbrzych 11, Zamosc 10.

The name almost certainly comes from the name of a village or tiny settlement named something like Dziechciowo or Dziegciowo, most likely somewhere in the province of Nowy Sacz. I can find no such place, but that may just mean it’s too small to show up in the atlases and gazetteers, or its name has changed in the centuries since the surname started. Dziechciow- is a spelling variant of Dziegciow-, caused by very similar pronunciation; the ultimate root of the name is dziegiec~, “birch tar,” and there is an adjective dziegciowy meaning “of birch-tar.” There were people who worked collecting such tar for making various products, and presumably Dziechciowo/Dziegciowo was a village where such activity was common.

…I see from your list that there is nothing on the name of Ratulowski. Do you have any clue where or how this name originated?

Here is the data on that name’s distribution by province as of 1990:

Ratul~owski: 101; Bielsko-Biala 4, Gdansk 13, Kalisz 1, Krakow 7, Krosno 4, Nowy Sacz 63, Wroclaw 8, Zielona Gora 1.

This name also comes from a place name, and since the largest numbers appear in the province of Nowy Sacz, that’s where I looked. Almost certainly this name comes fromRatul~o~w, Nowy Sacz province, 15 km. southwest of Nowy Targ, 7.5 km. southeast of Czarny Dunajec, served by the Catholic parish in the latter village. A gazetteer entry for Ratul~o~w even mentioned that there was a Maciej Ratul~owski who owned the property in 1660. The place was originally called Radulto~w, after a local official named Radult, then later the name was mangled or changed into Ratul~o~w.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Wayne Jekot, [email protected], who wrote:

…What does the surname ‘Jekot’ mean?

The name is spelled Je~kot in Polish, where e~ stands for the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail under it and pronounced, roughly, like en, so that the name sounds like “yen-kot” — you might sometimes see it spelled Jenkot, too. It comes from a term je~kot, apparently not used a lot, which means “one who’s constantly moaning and groaning.” As of 1990 there were 515 Polish citizens with this name, living all over the country but with the largest numbers showing up in the provinces of Katowice (43), Krakow (62), and Tarnow (180). All these provinces are in far southern Poland, with Tarnow stretching into southeastern Poland, not too far from the Ukrainian border. So the chances seem fairly good most Jekot’s originally came from the Tarnow region or a little west of there. Unfortunately the source for this data does not give first names or addresses, so what I’ve given above is all I have access to.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


…Am very new to this. Am researching the Scislowicz surname from Nowy Targ Poland…

As of 1990 there were 408 Poles named S~cisl~owicz (accent over the first S, slash through the l, pronounced roughly “schees-WOE-vich”). They lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Katowice (43), Kielce (76), Krakow (29), Nowy Sacz (114) — all roughly in southcentral Poland, not far from the border with the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The suffix -owicz means “son of,” and s~cisl~y means “compact, dense, exact,” so the name would appear to mean “son of the short, squatty guy,” or perhaps “son of the precise, exact fellow.”

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: [email protected], who wrote:

…noticed you had information on Czyzewski and Malewicz. I was wondering if the info for those names are the same for Ciszewski and Malewicki? If not, do you have any info on these names you can share with me?

The Malewicz info would be very similar — this means basically “son of the little guy,” or perhaps “son of Mal” with Mal being a short form of a longer name such as Malomir. This is a moderately common name, with 1,113 Poles by this name as of 1990. They lived all over the country, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Warsaw (109), Bialystok (117), Bydgoszcz (173), Gorzow (82) and Szczecin (82). I really don’t see much in the way of a pattern to the distribution, which makes sense — a name like this could got started anywhere Polish was spoken and there were short guys who had children!

Czyzewski comes ultimately from the root czyz, “green finch, siskin,” but more directly from a place name such as Czyzewo, Czyzew, etc. — and there are a lot of those. As of 1990 there were 10,543 Poles named Czyzewski, living all over the country. So I’m afraid it’s one of those names that’s too common to help much. It can help in one way, however: if you do good research and pin down the part of Poland the family came from, and you notice there’s a place called Czyzew or Czyzewo nearby, chances are good that’s the particular village the name derived from in your case.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Norma, [email protected], who wrote:

…Could you please tell me the meaning of the Polish names Lanczak and Pisczek? Also, how long they have been around? I am also looking for the name Marosz/Maroszeor Marosk. I do not know if it is Polish or not.

As of 1990 there were 4,657 Poles named Piszczek, living all over the country but with the largest numbers (over 200) in the provinces of Katowice (948), Krakow (953), Nowy Sacz (248), Pila (313), Radom (203), and Tarnow (244). Polish surname expert Dr. Kazimierz Rymut notes this name appears in documents as early as 1390, and usually comes from the term piszczek, “one who plays pipes or fife.”

Lanczak is a tough one. My best guess is that this is an English rendering of L~an~czak (slash through the L, accent over the n, pronounced roughly “WINE-chok”). There were 104 Poles by this name in 1990, scattered in small numbers all over; the largest numbers were in the provinces of Warsaw (14), Leszno (18), Przemysl (9) and Torun (9). I don’t see any pattern to the distribution. The root would be either l~ania, “doe,” or l~an, “field, full-sized farm.” The most reasonable guess is that the name started as meaning “son of a fellow owning a full-sized farm” — many people were too poor to own regular farms and just owned little pieces of land, this would be a farmer who owned a full 30 acres or whatever. There are other possible meanings, but this is the one that seems most likely to me.

Marosz and the other variant forms certainly can be a Polish name, although there are probably other languages such a name could originate in. It probably started as a nickname for someone named Marcin (Martin) or Marek (Mark); Poles often formed names by taking the first syllable of a common first name, chopping off the end, and tacking on a suffix, in this case -osz. So you can’t really say Marosz means anything, any more than “Teddy” or “Johnny” mean something; they’re just nicknames that have developed into names in their own right. As of 1990 there were 593 Poles named Marosz, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Bielsko-Biala (50), Bydgoszcz (81), Krakow (60), and Poznan (49). There were also 1,836 Poles named Maroszek — the other spellings you mentioned suggest this might this name might be relevant. That name would just mean “little Marosz” or “son of Marosz.” This name is rather common, and the largest numbers for it appear in the provinces of Warsaw (192), Kalisz (129), Katowice (394), Krakow (128), and Radom (266) — pretty well spread out all over the country.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Edmund R. Tylenda, [email protected], who wrote:

… I am trying to trace my family roots and recently seen your book Polish Surnames: Origins & Meanings advertised for sale. However I was wondering about … my 2 family surnames… They are: Mruk, my grandfather was born in Moszczenica in Poland; Tylenda, my grandfather was born in the Suwalki region of Poland.

According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, Mruk comes from the basic root seen in the Polish words mruk, “man of few words, gloomy fellow,” and the verb root mruczec~, “to mumble.” It is a fairly common name in Poland, as of 1990 there were 2,915 Polish citizens named Mruk. They were scattered pretty much all over the country, which is not surprising, since the name could arise any place Polish was spoken and there were taciturn or glum fellows around, i. e., anywhere.

Tylenda is harder to pin down; Rymut mentions it, but cannot say for sure which root it comes from. It could be from the term tyl, “rear, back,” or from tyle, “how much?”, or from the Germanic first name Till. I do see in my 8-volume Polish-language dictionary that there is a very similar-sounding word, tyle~dzie (the e~ stands for the Polish nasal vowel written as an e with a tail and pronounced much like en), which means “back or blunt side of a knife” or “the back of something” in general. Poles were quite imaginative in their use of nicknames, sometimes we can tell a name came from a particular word without quite being able to figure out what the association was — I think that’s true in this case. As of 1990 there were 475 Poles named Tylenda, scattered all over the country but with by far the largest concentration in the province of Suwalki (302) in northeastern Poland, near the border with Lithuania and Belarus. The spelling Tyle~da, which would be pronounced the same way, is far less common, only 32 Poles by that name, with 31 of them living in Suwalki province. This suggests to me that far northeastern Poland is probably where this name originated, or at least where it’s most common by far — and that fits in with your information, too.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Allan L. Plucinik, [email protected], who wrote:

…My last name is Plucinik. My research shows that the original spelling is Plociennik, which later became Pluciennik, and then the present spelling. Some of my cousins who I’ve never met still spell it as Pluciennik. Can you provide any meaning or story behind the name?

According to Polish surname expert Kazimierz Rymut, this name comes from the Polish word pl~o~ciennik (slash through the l, accent over the o, so that it would be pronounced roughly “pwooh-CHEN-nick”), which means “dealer in linen or cloth.” Even in Poland the name can be spelled Pl~o~ciennik or Pl~uciennik. As of 1990 there were 3,265 Poles named Pl~o~ciennik and 3,242 named Pl~uciennik, so it is a pretty common name. The people with this name live all over Poland, with the largest numbers of Pl~o~cienniks in the provinces of Kalisz (492), Konin (292), Lodz (233), Poznan (275), and Sieradz (270); the most Pl~ucienniks live in the provinces of Warsaw (222), Konin (282), Lodz (350), and Sieradz (373). So the name is found all over — which is normal with names deriving from terms for common occupations — but the main concentration seems to be in the central part of the country. (I’m afraid more detailed info, such as first names, addresses, etc., is not available, what I show here is all I have). The name is a fairly old one, it appears in records as early as 1395!

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Steven Ksen, [email protected], who wrote:

…Do you have any information on the last name of Ksen?

The letter combination ks is not native to the Polish language, usually it shows up in words or names borrowed from Greek or Latin, especially by way of Ukraine or Belarus, because their ties to the Orthodox church caused them to borrow many names and words from Greek. In this case I’m fairly certain the name derives from either the Ukrainian feminine name Kseniya or the masculine name Ksenofont (for which Ksen’ is a recognized nickname, in Cyrillic it looks like K C E H b). The latter name comes from the Greek roots xenos, “foreign” + phone, “sound,” so apparently it originally meant “one who sounded foreign” — but that was in Greek, I suspect by the time Eastern Slavs heard of the name it had become just a name, and few had any idea what it actually meant. The feminine name Kseniya, from the Greek xenios, “hospitable,” is a bit more common, and the surname could also derive from it. In Poland and Ukraine surnames formed from first names are very common, especially from a father’s name, but in Ukraine names formed from mother’s names are not uncommon. So it’s plausible to say this surname comes from one of these two first names.

Since Ksen’ is distinctly Ukrainian (or perhaps also Belarusian or Russian), I’m not surprised that it’s not very common in Poland, at least within its modern borders (back in the days of the Polish Commonwealth western Ukraine was ruled by Poland, and Polish and Ukrainian names mixed to a considerable extent). As of 1990 there were only 72 Poles named Ksen’, living in the provinces of Warsaw (4), Elblag (5), Katowice (4), Kielce (16), Koszalin (2), Olsztyn (1), Opole (5), Poznan (2), Rzeszow (10), Szczecin (12), Tarnobrzeg (6), Tarnow (2), Walbrzych (3). They are scattered pretty much all over Poland, but that is probably due to all the forced relocations of displaced persons after World War II; I’d bet if we had data from before 1939 you’d find most of the people named Ksen’ lived in or near Ukraine or Belarus. (Unfortunately I don’t have access to more data, such as first names or addresses; what I give here is all I have).

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


To: Dave Surdyka, [email protected], who wrote:

…Do you have any background on Surdyka?

When I worked on my Polish surname book, I couldn’t find any discussion of this name by the experts I prefer to rely on. So I had to make the best guess I could — usually my “educated guesses” prove right, but not always, so don’t take this for Gospel truth!

I found a verb in Polish szurdac~ sie~, which means “to pout, sulk.” In Polish names it is not at all uncommon to see s and sz switch back and forth, any name with S might have a counterpart with SZ, and vice versa. So it’s plausible to say Surdyka and the other names with the same beginning (Surdacki, Surdej, Surdek, Surdel, Surdy, Surdyga, Surdyk, Surdykowski, Surdynski, Szurdak) come from this root. If so, the name probably started as a nickname for someone who sulked a lot, or perhaps some who had a kind of pouty look to his or her face. As I say, this is only plausible, I don’t have any solid evidence, but my batting average on such guesses is pretty decent.

Surdyka, and the closely related name Surdyk, are not rare; as of 1990 there were 392 Poles named Surdyka, and 1,077 named Surdyk. The Surdyka’s lived all over Poland, with the largest numbers in the provinces of Rzeszow (81) and Tarnobrzeg (143), thus mainly in southeastern Poland. The name Surdyk appears in many provinces in small numbers, none more than 43, except for one huge group in Poznan province (560!). So if Surdyka is the correct form (it could easily be a grammatical form of Surdyk, so you want to make sure that -a really belongs there), southeastern Poland or Galicia is likely to be where it came from; if it’s Surdyk, the Poznan region seems the best bet. Unfortunately, I don’t have any more data such as first names or addresses, so I can’t help you locate any of those Surdykas or Surdyks.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings


From: [email protected] (Laurence Krupnak)

…Post the following in the pgsa surname site if you think it is accurate and would be helpful to others.

Hello George:

RE: Csehill

The Cs suggests Magyarization. Do you have how the name was/is written in Cyrillic? That would help in its interpretation because the name, in addition to being Magyarized, was also anglicized.


Lavrentij Krupnak


I read a little more about the Magyar language and have some information which may help decipher the meaning of the name Csehill. In 1910, when the Hungarian language orthography was modernized, the cs consonant combination was eliminated. It was replaced with ch and ts.

The ch is pronounced like “ch” in “CHeap” and ts is pronounced like “ts” in “iTS.”

RE: Csehill. Perhaps this spelling is the version based on the pre-1910 Magyar orthography. Today, it maybe in Magyar written as Tsehill (here also preserving the anglicized form).

Ts is pronounced like the 27th letter of the Ukrainian alphabet. The Ukrainian word tsehla means “brick” or “tile.” A tsehl’nik is a “brick-maker.” Perhaps the surnameCsehill is based on the Ukrainian word for “brick” or “tile.”


Lavrentij Krupnak

Note: I can’t think of anything to add — I doubt I would ever have thought of this particular connection, but it strikes me as plausible.

William F. “Fred” Hoffman, Author, Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings